For such a simple act, washing your hair sure can be confusing. Between figuring out how often to wash and keeping track of new product trends, shampooing can leave even the most seasoned beauty maven scratching her head.
The shampoo struggle is real, and TODAY Style is here to help you get the best results possible. That’s why we consulted a crew of experts to answer all of your basic questions, and help debunk the shampoo alternatives out there — like the “no poo” movement and co-washing. Consider your shower problems handled.
SHOULD YOU WASH YOUR HAIR EVERY DAY?
There’s just something refreshing about that squeaky-clean, post-shampoo feeling, so it’s not surprising that many women wash their hair every day. But is a daily shampoo really necessary, and is it even a good idea? It depends on your personal preference and lifestyle, but experts tend to agree that shampooing every single day isn’t always best.
“I recommend washing hair only when it really needs to be washed (not just because you are showering). The natural oils are so good for the hair and if the hair is washed too often, it can cause an imbalance,” said Kérastase celebrity hairstylist, Matt Fugate.
Think of washing your hair like washing your face: It’s a necessary part of your beauty routine, but overdoing it can unintentionally upset your body’s natural balance of healthy oils that help moisturize.
Shampooing too frequently can also cause actual damage to hair. “Washing your hair too often can make the hair dry and brittle and lead to irritation of the scalp,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology.
When hair is wet, it swells up, making it more vulnerable, according to Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist who co-founded the website The Beauty Brains: “The process of moving shampoo or conditioner around in your hair can damage the hair cuticle (the outer layer). When the hair dries, it doesn’t lay perfectly flat so that makes hair look dull, makes it harder to comb and increases the chances of getting a split hair.”
Women with sensitive scalps should take extra caution. “Exposure to detergents can cause irritation on your scalp,” Romanowski said. “For some people, washing hair too often can lead to rashes and itching.”
“I recommend washing hair only when it really needs to be washed (not just because you are showering).”
At the same time, you also want to make sure you’re washing your hair enoughbecause skipping out on several washes can irritate your scalp. “If you don’t wash your hair often, scalp oil tends to build up. This causes greasiness of the hair and can promote dandruff,” Zeichner said.
The moral of the story? Everyone is different, and many women wash their hair daily without negative side effects. It’s really about knowing your hair and scalp, and finding a shampoo schedule that works best for you!
Depending on your hair type — thick, thin, oily, dry, natural, curly, colored, etc. — your locks will have their own set of needs.
“Finding the right balance of hair washing for your hair type takes some trial and error, but every head of hair has that perfect balance. Pay attention to your scalp and hair appearance for the signals because over or underwashing have telltale signs (dryness and oiliness),” Carolyn Aronson, CEO and founder of It’s a 10 Haircare, said.
Ladies with fine, thin hair should also try to avoid shampoos containing certain ingredients.
For starters, women with oily hair typically feel the need to wash their hair more often, but doing so can be counterproductive. “It can lead the scalp to think it needs to replace the oils and overproduce,” Aronson said. To nip this nasty cycle in the bud, seek out a sulfate-free shampoo that offers a deep cleansing without the drying effect.
Dry, damaged hair also responds well to more infrequent shampooing, according to Romanowski, so you might want to try washing your locks every other day. Colored hair should also be washed less often — with a moisturizing, sulfate-free formula — if you want to get the most bang for your buck. After all, color fades a bit with each shampoo, so you can extend the life of your dye job by only washing every other day or every three days.
Some hair types require more frequent washing, like thinner locks. To avoid flat hair, women with thinner hair typically need to cleanse more often. Ladies with fine, thin hair should also try to avoid shampoos containing certain ingredients. “Dimethicone can build up and weigh your hair down. Cyclomethicone is a good choice for that type of hair because it evaporates over time,” Romanowski said.
If you’re lucky enough to have thick hair, though, you don’t have to wash quite as often. “Thicker textures need the oils, so it can be washed less frequently,” Fugate said.
Normal to coarse hair types should seek a shampoo with dimethicone, a great ingredient for taming curls and flyaway hairs, according to Romanowski. And normal hair types can typically withstand a daily wash.